It started out as a regular run vlog. In a now-viral TikTok, runner Samantha Mac @sageandmaize takes her followers along on a planned 8-mile run that began lighthearted—but turned into something unsettling partway through. Something that women running alone experience all too frequently.
“Good morning, it is 42 degrees, let’s go for an 8-mile run,” she starts. “Fit check: cute.” Samantha then checks in at the beginning of each mile, giving her viewers updates on her progress. “Mile one: My lungs are struggling a little bit because of the cold air, but I feel great otherwise.” At mile two, she mentions she’s training for an upcoming half marathon. At mile four, she shares her playlist. She’s sunny, happy, upbeat.
But somewhere around mile five, the vibe is different. There’s a distinct change in her voice, in her movements. She’s looking around instead of looking at the camera. She sounds scared.
“There’s this guy in a red car who’s driven by me twice,” she explains, her voice shaky. “It’s making me really nervous.”
PSA trust your gut
♬ original sound – samantha mac
Watching, you can’t help but notice the similarities between Samantha’s run and the 8-mile run that Eliza Fletcher wasn’t able to complete.
Samantha goes on to share that the suspicious driver has parked at the end of the road where she’s running, and that she can’t get back to her car without running past his car first. When he starts to leave the parking spot, she tearfully asks a nearby neighbor if she can wait in his yard for her parents to pick her up. We then hear her talking to the police about running with pepper spray, and asking if bear spray is better.
“It’s just one of those things where it’s like, you don’t think it’s going to happen to you… until it happens to you,” Samantha says in her video.
Thankfully, Samantha is safe, but she didn’t get to finish her run. But some aren’t so fortunate. Eliza Fletcher didn’t get to finish her run. Neither did Mollie Tibbets, nor countless other female runners who were out running alone.
In Samantha’s case, it could have been nothing. But it also could have been something. Samantha trusted her gut, called her parents for a ride, and found a safe spot to stay before calling the police.
As a runner, I’ve been in Samantha’s shoes, too. Doubled back on myself. Paused my playlist so I could listen for footfalls behind me. Kept an eye on passing cars’ side-view mirrors. Memorized a license plate, just in case. Spent too much mental energy worrying on runs that were intended to clear my head. Ran home, relieved, but no less anxious.
It’s a universal problem—women feeling unsafe as they go about their daily activities. No matter if it’s exercising, running an errand or traveling.
Samantha’s TikTok, which has now been viewed more than 2.4 million times, is a testament to the fear women feel every single day.
“Following a gut feeling saved my life at a rest stop. Always trust that feeling, you’re never overreacting,” commented TikTok user Mommy Farmer.
“The way that every woman has experienced this to some degree. We all know that gut feeling. Ugh,” wrote user Jera Bean.
“Smart girl. This makes me cry. I have felt your fear. I’m glad you’re safe,” said Natasha Jade.
But for many, myself included, running is a lifeline. It’s the thing we do to feel like our best selves. It’s the thing we do to escape our thoughts—or face them head-on. It’s the thing we do regardless of the risks and dangers.
I could all list the things to do to keep yourself safe while you run, like run with a friend, carry an alarm, bring bear spray. Make sure a loved one knows your route, keep your location tracking on, stay aware of your surroundings.
But none of those things matter if you don’t tap into your instincts. What really keeps you safe while running? Having the willingness to listen to what your fear is trying to tell you. The courage to adapt your route, cut your run short, call a family member to pick you up.
“PSA: Trust your gut,” Samantha captioned her TikTok. No wiser words.
A version of this story was originally published on Sept. 15, 2022. It has been updated.